Review: ‘TÁR,’ starring Cate Blanchett

October 9, 2022

by Carla Hay

Cate Blanchett in “TÁR” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

“TÁR”

Directed by Todd Field

Some language in German with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Berlin and New York City, the dramatic film “TÁR” features a cast of predominantly white characters (with some Asians) representing the middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: An internationally famous classical music conductor finds her life spiraling out of control when her past actions come back to haunt her. 

Culture Audience: TÁR” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Cate Blanchett, writer/director Todd Field and well-acted movies about powerful people who experience a scandalous fall from grace..

Cate Blanchett and Nina Hoss in “TÁR” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

Cate Blanchett’s riveting performance in writer/director Todd Field’s “TÁR” makes it a psychological minefield of a drama. It’s an absorbing portrait of someone intoxicated by her own power and facing a reckoning that’s as unwelcome to her as a nasty hangover. Blanchett’s Lydia Tár character is a classical music conductor who has reached the top of her field, which makes her public downfall such a disastrous mess. Viewers can decide for themselves if this downfall could have been diminished based on how it was handled by the movie’s central character.

“TÁR” is Field’s first movie as a writer/director/producer since his Oscar-nominated 2006 drama “Little Children,” another movie about how a woman is affected by a sex-related scandal. Whereas “Little Children” told the story of a private citizen in a suburban U.S. neighborhood, “TÁR” is about a public figure who is an internationally famous entertainer. “TÁR” had its world premiere at the 2022 Venice International Film Festival in Italy and subsequently had premieres at the 2022 Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, and the 2022 New York Film Festival in New York City.

In “TÁR,” Lydia fits every definition of a type-A personality who’s an overachiever. The movie’s opening scene takes place at The New Yorker Festival, where writer Adam Gopnik (playing a version of himself) is interviewing Lydia in a one-on-one Q&A in front of the audience. It’s a laudatory interview, where her accomplishments are listed like badges of honor: She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University. Lydia is also a piano performance graduate of the Curtis Institute, and she has a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Vienna, specializing in music from the Ucayali Valley in Eastern Peru.

At one time or another, she has been a conductor for all of the “Big Five” American orchestras: New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra. Lydia is a rare entertainer who is an EGOT winner: someone who has won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. She considers herself to be a New Yorker, and has a home in New York City, where she still visits on a regular basis. However, for the past seven years, Lydia has been living in Berlin, because she has been a conductor for an unnamed German orchestra.

Lydia, who describes herself as a “U-Haul lesbian,” lives with her German domestic partner Sharon Goodnow (played by Nina Hoss) and their adopted Syrian daughter Petra (played by Mila Bogojevic), who is about 6 or 7 years old. Sharon is a violinist in the German orchestra that Lydia conducts. It’s the first sign in the movie that Lydia has a tendency to blur the lines between her job and her personal life.

Lydia is a loner who doesn’t have a close circle of friends, so Sharon is Lydia’s closest confidante. Sharon knows a lot of Lydia’s secrets. However, Sharon eventually finds out that she doesn’t really know everything about Lydia. Two American men also have an influence on Lydia, and they give her advice, whether she wants to hear it or not.

Eliot Kaplan (played by Mark Strong) is an investment banker and amateur conductor, who has financed a non-profit program called the Accordion Conducting Fellowship, which is led by Lydia. The fellowship gives apprenticeships and job opportunities to aspiring female classical music conductors in this very male-dominated field. Near the beginning of the movie, Lydia tells Eliot during a lunch meeting that she’s thinking that the program recipients shouldn’t just be one gender.

The other man who plays an influential role in Lydia’s life is her mentor Andris Davis (played by Julian Glover), who was her predecessor at the German orchestra that Lydia currently conducts. Andris was the one who recommended her for the job, although it’s made clear throughout the movie that Lydia’s talent is so highly respected and sought-after, she probably didn’t need to a recommendation to get the job. What started out as a temporary job for Lydia to be the guest conductor position at this German orchestra turned out to be a long-term, permanent position.

If viewers believe the narrative that Lydia tells people, one of the reasons why she and Sharon decided to settle in Berlin was to be closer to Sharon’s family members who live in the area. But as the story unfolds, it becomes pretty obvious that Lydia might have had a reason to avoid living in New York full-time. It turns out that Lydia has a “stalker” who lives in New York City.

Lydia’s French assistant Francesca Lentini (played by Noémie Merlant) knows who this “stalker” is, because this person has been sending obsessive and threatening email messages to Lydia. Francesca has permission to access these messages, because Francesca screens Lydia’s mail. Francesca is an aspiring conductor who greatly admires Lydia and considers Lydia to be her mentor.

Over time, based on the way that Francesca acts and what she says, Francesca seems to assume that she will be Lydia’s first choice if any big job opportunity comes along that Lydia can help Francesca get. Lydia expects unwavering loyalty from Francesca, but Francesca expects the same loyalty in return. There’s some sexual tension between Lydia and Francesca that will make viewers speculate if or when the relationship between Lydia and Francesca ever became sexually intimate.

Just like a lot of hard-driving, ambitious and accomplished people, Lydia is a perfectionist who is just as hard on herself as she is on other people. A very telling scene is when she is a guest teacher in a classical music class at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City. The students seem very intimidated by Lydia’s reputation for being merciless in her criticism, but she’s also full of praise for anyone who meets or exceeds her high standards.

During this class session, Lydia singles out a student named Max (played by Zethphan Smith-Gneist) and asks him, “What are you actually conducting?” Max is so nervous in her presence, one of Max’s legs is literally shaking as Max talks to her. However, Max isn’t so afraid of Lydia that Max won’t challenge some of the things that she lectures to the students.

For example, Lydia tells the students any great conductor or musician can find something to relate to in the music of classical icons Johann Sebastian Bach or Ludwig van Beethoven. Max disagrees and tells Lydia and the rest of the people in the room: “As a BIPOC [black, indigenous, or person of color], pan-gender person, it’s impossible to take Bach seriously.”

Lydia tells Max that she doesn’t know what BIPOC and pan-gender means, and her attitude is that she doesn’t care to know. She treats Max dismissively, like an ignorant young person whose opinions matter very little to her, because she’s the more experienced, older person. Finally, a fed-up Max gets tired of feeling belittled by Lydia, and Max walks out of the class. Before leaving the room, Max tells Lydia, “You’re a fucking bitch.”

In response, a stone-faced Lydia calls Max a “robot.” Throughout the movie, Lydia mentions that she dislikes it when people act like robots. During her lunch with Eliot, she says, “There’s no glory for a robot. Do your own thing.” Ironically, when Lydia’s world starts to come crashing down on her, she represses her emotions and turns to rigid routines (such as rigorous jogging and boxing) to cope, and thereby acts very much like a “robot,” in an attempt to tune out her troubles.

Lydia is under enormous career pressure when things start to fall apart for her. The German orchestra is preparing for a Deutsche Grammophon live recording date of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, which will be a major accomplishment in her career. In addition, Lydia is working on writing an original classical piece. However, she seems to be having writer’s block, and she doesn’t really want to admit this problem to anyone.

While in Berlin, Lydia meets a Russian cellist Olga Metkina (played by Sophie Kauer), who is 18 or 19 years old. Olga acts like a star-struck fan with Lydia, who is flattered. Lydia also seems to be sexually attracted to Olga. Meanwhile, Olga seems to be aware of this attraction and makes it clear that she’s eager for any opportunity to work with Lydia.

“TÁR” is fascinating to watch for how it unpeels the layers of Lydia’s contradictory character that is capable of hiding a web of lies and secrets. Lydia can be charismatic and funny, but she can also be ruthless and cruel. She is a workaholic who doesn’t spend a lot of quality time with her daughter Petra, but Lydia quietly threatens the girl at Petra’s school who has been bullying Petra.

Lydia claims to be open to collaboration and hearing different ideas, but when anyone dares to question her ideas or decisions, she gets revenge in passive-aggressive ways. An elderly orchestra member named Sebastian Brix (played by Allan Corduner) finds out the hard way how vindictive Lydia can be. What happens to Sebastian sets off a certain chain events that will accelerate the scandal that could lead to Lydia’s downfall.

In telling the story of this complex person, Field also uses haunting flashback techniques that resemble a fever dream, where Lydia remembers things related to the scandal that threatens to end her career. Lydia also sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night to random sounds, such as a metronome that seems to have started on its own. It further fuels the sense that Lydia is being haunted. How much of it is her own doing? As the tension builds and things get worse for Lydia, the movie’s cinematography (played by Florian Hoffmeister) and the music (by Hildur Guðnadóttir) become more foreboding, creating a sense that the proverbial walls are closing in on her.

The character of Lydia is so well-written and embodied with such realism by Blanchett, people who don’t know anything about the world of classical music might mistake “TÁR” for being a biopic based on a real person. All of the other cast members play their parts well, but the movie would not be as effective without Blanchett’s masterful performance. (Field has said in interviews that he wrote the “TÁR” role only for Blanchett.) It’s the type of virtuoso, top-notch performance that would make Lydia Tár very proud.

Focus Features released “TÁR” in select U.S. cinemas on October 7, 2022, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on October 28, 2022.

Review: ‘The Contractor’ (2022), starring Chris Pine

April 26, 2022

by Carla Hay

Chris Pine in “The Contractor” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

“The Contractor” (2022)

Directed by Tarik Saleh

Culture Representation: Taking place in the United States and in Berlin, the action film “The Contractor” features a cast of predominantly white characters (with some African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A former Green Beret takes a mercenary job as a private contractor, and he finds himself at going against orders and being hunted by his former colleagues. 

Culture Audience: “The Contractor” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Chris Pine and anyone who likes formulaic “shoot ’em up” movies.

Gillian Jacobs and Chris Pine in “The Contractor” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

“The Contractor” is as generic and dull as its title, with an over-used action-movie plot of a bitter military veteran who goes rogue. Throw in some ‘daddy issues,’ sloppy editing and a drab Chris Pine—and that sums up this soulless film. It’s also got an awkward mix of trying to be gritty and sentimental, often in the wrong places.

Directed by Tarik Saleh and written by J.P. Davis, “The Contractor” (formerly titled “Violence of Action”) is being marketed as an action thriller, but any “action” or “thrills” are utterly predictable and don’t really come until the last half of the movie. The first half of the movie is a dreary slog showing what led to James Harper (played by Pine) going from being a Green Beret to joining a shady mercenary operation as a private contractor. James is living in the shadow of his father Mason, a high-ranking U.S. military officer who expected James from an early age to also go into the military.

In the beginning of “The Contractor,” James has been estranged from his father for years, for reasons that remain vague. However, flashbacks and conversations reveal that Mason (played by Dean Ashton) was an overly demanding and emotionally abusive father during James’ childhood. The movie starts off with James as a U.S. Army Special Forces Sergeant first class, also known as a Green Beret. James is also a war veteran, and he sustained injuries during his war duties. James is currently stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Now seemingly recovered from his injuries, James is due to go before a board of military decision makers who will determine if he will be reinstated as a Green Beret. However, James has a secret: Because he’s desperate to be in the type of physical shape where he can be re-instated, James has been illegally taking human growth hormones through needle injections.

The U.S. Army finds out when James tests positive for these drugs. He is honorably discharged, but as punishment, he won’t be getting his military pension or insurance benefits. It comes at a very bad time, because James and his homemaker wife Brianne (played by Gillian Jacobs) are heavily in debt and getting dangerously close to going bankrupt. They’re so financially broke, they’re behind on their utility bills. When debt collectors call, James just ignores the phone calls.

In addition to having a financial strain on their marriage, James and Brianne have grown emotionally distant from each other. Brianne and James have a shy and introverted son named Jack (played by Sander Thomas), who is about 8 or 9 years old and the couple’s only child. Because James has spent a long time away from home, Jack is bashful around James, but James wants to be a loving and attentive father, so he makes an effort to get closer to his son, by doing things such as teaching Jack to swim in a public pool.

Not long after getting the bad news about his military discharge, James finds out that his father has died. This death seems to trigger some strange behavior in James, in obvious indications that he has unresolved issues with his father. For example, Brianne finds James doing repairs on their house’s roof in the middle of the night. When Brianne wants an explanation, James says defensively to her: “I’m not my father.”

And in cliché-ridden tripe such as “The Contractor,” that means you’re going to see some hazy-looking flashback scenes of James as child of about 10 or 11 years old (played by Toby Dixon) and James’ father Mason, who was a stereotypical stern and macho military type. As seen in flashbacks, Mason was the type of father who expected James to be tough from a very early age. He even forced a pre-teen Mason to get a tattoo at a tattoo parlor, even though it’s illegal for tattoo parlors to give tattoos to people under the age of 18.

At his father’s funeral, James reconnects with his former military best friend Mike (played by Ben Foster), who is happily married to a woman named Christine (played by Tyner Rushing), who likes and respects James too. Mike and Christine have two children: Mike Jr. (played by Nicolas Noblitt), who’s about 10 or 11 years old, and Kelly (played by Eva Ursescu), who’s about 12 or 13 years old. When James goes to Mike’s house for dinner, Brianne is not with him, which is another indication of the cracks in their marriage.

During this visit at Mike’s house, James confides in Mike about his financial problems. Mike tells James that if James is interested in private contractor work, Mike can easily help James get a contractor job that pays $350,000. It’s an offer that’s too tempting to refuse, and James desperately needs the money, so he says yes. This “private contractor” work is really mercenary-for-hire work, usually done by ex-military people, for secretive employers who want to keep these “black ops” jobs as confidential as possible.

Brianne isn’t too pleased about this decision, especially since James promised her that he would never do this type of work. James has already made up his mind though, and there’s nothing Brianne can do to stop him. James’ family life then gets mostly sidelined, as the rest of the movie is about his private contractor job.

James’ supervisor in this job is a rough and jaded character named Rusty (played by Kiefer Sutherland), who says that James will get $50,000 up front as payment, and the remaining $300,000 after the job is completed. To launder his money, Rusty owns a company that imports and exports coffee.

Rusty knows that James is taking this job because James was essentially ousted from the U.S. military. Rusty tells James: “I was you. That’s why we started our own tribe.” Rusty also warns James about the ruthless mercenaries he will encounter in the job. “The stink of those guys, they will rub off on you.”

It’s an assignment that will take James, Mike and some other people on this black-ops team to Berlin. The other members of the team include a cunning operative named Katia (played by Nina Hoss) and a muscle-bound brute named Kauffman (played by Florian Munteanu). Later, James meets a mysterious recluse named Virgil (played by Eddie Marsan), who might or might not be helpful to James.

In Berlin, this black-ops group has been tasked with hunting down a 42-year-old man named Salim Mohsin (played by Fares Fares), a retired professor of virology who used to work at Humboldt University in Berlin. Salim is doing privately funded research, and he’s suspected of being involved in bioterrorism, because he is developing a poisonous gas that could be used as a weapon of mass destruction.

Salim’s research is being funded by Farak Ojjeh, the founder of El Sawa, a charity with known links to Al Qaeda in Syria. Salim and his wife Sophie (played by Amira Casar) have a 9-year-old son named Olivier (played by Tudor Velio) and a 7-year-old son named Yanis (played by Aristou Meehan). And predictably, this family will be caught up in some way in whatever dirty dealings happen in the movie.

Things happen during this mission that don’t sit right with James, so he decides to not follow orders. It leads to James and Mike going on the run from their colleagues, with double-crossings and shootouts in the mix. The action scenes aren’t impressive. And too much of the action has clunky editing, thereby making some of the chase scenes look very phony.

It all just leads to a very formulaic conclusion, where the people who die and those who survive are too easy to predict. All of the cast members just seem to be going through the motions in the action scenes. The only attempt at some emotional depth is in the underdeveloped family scenes near the beginning of the film.

“The Contractor” has all the cinematic resonance of a mediocre video game. That might be enough to entertain some viewers watching a movie with talented cast members who deserve better material. Everyone else can skip “The Contractor,” because they won’t be missing out on anything meaningful.

Paramount Pictures released “The Contractor” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on April 1, 2022. The movie is set for release on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on June 7, 2022.

Review: ‘Undine’ (2020), starring Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski

July 4, 2021

by Carla Hay

Paula Beer in “Undine” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

“Undine” (2020)

Directed by Christian Petzold

German with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Berlin, the dramatic film “Undine” features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A water sprite in human form is conflicted between two human lovers and how these romances will affect whether she will live happily ever after or if she will be doomed to a life that she doesn’t want.

Culture Audience: “Undine” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in artsy European films that are contemporary interpretations of fairy tales.

Franz Rogowski and Paula Beer in “Undine” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

Based on the fairy tale about a water sprite who takes on the form of a human, the dramatic film “Undine” unfolds like a fever dream rather than straightforward story. The movie’s visuals and acting are compelling, but might not be enough to hold the interest of people who aren’t already familiar with the Undine mythology. It’s a movie that requires patience and curiosity to see how everything is going to end, because the heroine of the story wants to defy her fate.

Written and directed by Christian Petzold, “Undine” takes place in Berlin and has some bold-risk-taking in this often-abstract version of the Undine fairytale. This movie’s title character is Undine Wibeau (played by Paula Beer), a historian who works at the Senate for Urban Development and Housing, where she gives guided tours to visitors. Much of her guided tours involves showing model replicas of what Berlin and plans fo the city’s development. Undine looks like a woman who’s in her 20s, but she’s really a water sprite who has this curse of having to kill any man who becomes her lover and betrays her.

The beginning of the movie is the break-up scene that sets in motion what follows for the rest of the story. At a cafe table directly outside the building where Undine works, she is having lunch with her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend Johannes (played by Jacob Matschenz), who is trying to let her down easily as he ends the relationship. It’s later revealed in the story that Johannes is already romantically involved with someone else named Nora (played by Julia Franz Richter), and he doesn’t want to leave Nora to be with Undine.

As Johannes leaves the table to gets some coffee, Undine starts crying but quickly wipes away he tears when Johannes comes back to the table. She tells him ominously, “You said you love me forever. If you leave, I have to kill you. If you leave here, you have to die.”

Undine says that she has to go back to work because that she will return to the table in half and hour when she’s on her break. She tells Johannes that she expects him to be at the table when she gets back. And when she sees him again, Undine tells Johannes that he better declare his love for her. She even looks out of the building window to check and see if Johannes is still there.

If would be incorrect to assume that “Undine” is going to turn into a “Fatal Attraction” type of movie, with Undine as the jilted lover who spends most of the story stalking the man who dumped her. Instead, this artfully directed but quirky film goes in an entirely different direction. Shortly after this break-up with Johannes, Undine meets another man who becomes her next love. His name is Christoff (played by Franz Rogowski), an industrial diver with an introverted personality.

Whereas Johannes was cold and standoffish, Christoff is warm and romantic. After one of Undine’s guided tours, which had Christoff in the tour group, Christoff shyly approaches Undine, flatters her about her tour guide skills, and asks her out on a date. Undine is so distracted over her problems with Johannes that she just stares at Christoff and doesn’t give an answer.

Christoff nervously backs into a shelf, which causes the other furniture in the room to vibrate. This movement has a domino effect that ends with a very large aquarium in the room tipping over and smashing completely. The force of the water crashes over Christoff and Undine, who are both knocked to the ground.

It’s an awkward way to start a relationship, but somehow this bizarre accident quickly bonds Christoff and Undine together. They have a passionate romance, which includes their shared love of diving underwater. During one of their diving dates, Christoff demonstrates a romantic gesture by showing Undine a brick wall that has her name on it.

Christoff begins to suspect that there’s something unusual about Undine during this diving date, when she briefly disappears underwater. When Christoff sees Undine a minute or two later, she’s holding on to a dolphin, but she isn’t wearing her scuba gear. Undine suddenly passes out from lack of oxygen.

Christoff rescues Undine and gives her cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), while chanting the chorus to the Bee Gees’ “Staying Alive.” (It’s one of the movie’s many quirks.) Undine makes a quick recovery and asks Christoff to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on her again. He’s reluctant to do so because he’s afraid someone might see them and think she’s really in distress. Christoff tells Undine that he can grant her wish when they get home.

“Undine” is filled with scenes like that, where not everything fits in a cohesive manner, but the the details of movie are presented like a jigsaw puzzle that viewers are expected to piece together on their own. Johannes isn’t completely out of the picture. There’s a pivotal scene on a bridge where Christoff and Undine are embracing each other as they walk past another couple, who are walking in the opposite direction.

The other couple are Johannes and Nora. Undine stares at Johannes, Christoff notices, and Christoff expresses some insecurity that Undine’s heart started to beat faster when she looked at the other man. Undine won’t tell Christoff about Johannes or her history with him, but this encounter plants some seeds of jealousy in Christoff. Meanwhile, Christoff has a co-worker named Monika (played by Maryam Zaree) who might have more than platonic feelings for Christoff.

Cinematically, “Undine” is a gorgeous and sometimes haunting film to watch. However, it’s not the type of movie that will be enjoyed by people who want to see more conventional ways of telling a love story. The movie’s greatest strengths are in how it presents thought-provoking themes about destiny versus free will, as well as forgiveness versus revenge, and how these themes fit into the overall concept of pursuing love that makes someone happy. Petzold’s direction and the cast members’ acting achieve a tricky balance of bringing a realistic emotional tone to a fairy tale that’s been told many times but never before in this idiosyncratic and memorable way.

IFC Films released “Undine” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on June 4, 2021. The movie was released in Germany and other countries in 2020.

2020 Berlin International Film Festival: award winners announced

February 29, 2020

The following is a combination of press releases from the Berlin International Film Festival:

The 70th annual Berlin International Film Festival took place in Germany from February 20 to March 1, 2020. The awards were announced on February 29. A complete list of awards for can be found here.

PRIZES OF THE INTERNATIONAL JURY

Members of the Jury: Jeremy Irons (Jury President), Bérénice Bejo, Bettina Brokemper, Annemarie Jacir, Kenneth Lonergan, Luca Marinelli, Kleber Mendonça Filho

Golden Bear for Best Film (awarded to the film’s producers)
Sheytan vojud nadarad (There Is No Evil) (Es gibt kein Böses) by Mohammad Rasoulof; produced by Mohammad Rasoulof, Kaveh Farnam, Farzad Pak

Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize
Never Rarely Sometimes Always by Eliza Hittman

Silver Bear for Best Director
Hong Sangsoo for Domangchin yeoja (The Woman Who Ran | Die Frau, die rannte)

Silver Bear for Best Actress
Paula Beer in Undine by Christian Petzold

Silver Bear for Best Actor
Elio Germano in Volevo nascondermi (Hidden Away) by Giorgio Diritti

Silver Bear for Best Screenplay
D’Innocenzo Brothers for Favolacce (Bad Tales) by D’Innocenzo Brothers

Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution
Jürgen Jürges for the cinematography in Dau. Natasha by Ilya Khrzhanovskiy, Jekaterina Oertel

Silver Bear — 70th Berlinale
Effacer l’historique and Delete History by Benoît Delépine, Gustave Kervern

PRIZES OF THE ENCOUNTERS JURY

Members of the Jury: Shôzô Ichiyama, Dominga Sotomayor, Eva Trobisch

Best Film
The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) by C.W. Winter, Anders Edstrom

Special Jury Award
The Trouble With Being Born by Sandra Wollner

Best Director
Malmkrog by Cristi Puiu

Special Mention
Isabella by Matías Piñeiro

GWFF BEST FIRST FEATURE AWARD

Members of the Jury: Ognjen Glavonić, Hala Lotfy, Gonzalo de Pedro Amatria

GWFF Best First Feature Award endowed with €50,000, funded by GWFF
Los conductos by Camilo Restrepo produced by Helen Olive, Martin Bertier, Felipe Guerrero

Special Mention
Nackte Tiere (Naked Animals) by Melanie Waelde produced by Anja Wedell

BERLINALE DOCUMENTARY AWARD

Members of the Jury: Gerd Kroske, Marie Losier, Alanis Obomsawin

Berlinale Documentary Award endowed with €40,000, funded by Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (rbb)
Irradiés (Irradiated) by Rithy Panh produced by Catherine Dussart

Special Mention
Aufzeichnungen aus der Unterwelt (Notes from the Underworld) by Tizza Covi, Rainer Frimmel produced by Tizza Covi, Rainer Frimmel

PANORAMA AWARDS

The audience has voted: The 22nd Panorama Audience Award for the best feature film goes to Otac (Father) by Srdan Golubović. Welcome to Chechnya by David France wins in the category Panorama Dokumente. The prizes are awarded by the Berlinale section Panorama together with radioeins and rbb television (Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg).

Otac (Father) shows Nikola fighting for his children. After they have been taken away from him by social services, he sets off on foot to lodge a complaint in Belgrade. Srdan Golubović delivers a moving tale about inequality. Welcome to Chechnya is the first documentary about the activists who join forces to save other people’s and their own lives in the face of the systematic persecution of the LGBTQI* community carried out by the Chechen authorities. David France’s film is a tour de force charged with resilience and courage.

The official awards ceremony will take place on Berlinale Publikumstag, Sunday, March 1, at 5 pm in CinemaxX 7 at Potsdamer Platz. Martina Zöllner, rbb programme manager for documentation and fiction, and Robert Skuppin, radioeins programme director, will present the prizes. Knut Elstermann, radioeins film expert, will moderate the event together with Panorama head Michael Stütz. The award-winning feature film will be shown immediately after the award ceremony, the winner of the Panorama Dokumente will be shown at 8 pm, also in CinemaxX 7.

The Panorama Audience Award has been bestowed since 1999. As of 2011, both the best feature film and the best documentary have been honored. During the Berlinale, all cinema-goers are invited to rate the films in the Panorama section on a voting card. In total around 20,000 votes were cast and evaluated.

This year, Panorama presented a total of 36 feature films from 30 production countries, 13 of them were in Panorama Dokumente.

Panorama Audience Award Winner – Feature Film 2020:
Otac (Father)
Serbia / France / Germany / Croatia / Slovenia / Bosnia and Herzegovina
by Srdan Golubović

2nd Place Panorama Audience Award Winner – Feature Film 2020:
Futur Drei (No Hard Feelings)
Germany
by Faraz Shariat

3rd Place Panorama Audience Award Winner – Feature Film 2020:
Håp (Hope)
Norway / Sweden
by Maria Sødahl

Panorama Audience Award Winner – Panorama Dokumente 2020:
Welcome to Chechnya
USA
by David France

2nd Place Panorama Audience Award Winner – Panorama Dokumente 2020:
Saudi Runaway
Switzerland
by Susanne Regina Meures

3rd Place Panorama Audience Award Winner – Panorama Dokumente 2020:
Petite fille (Little Girl)
France
by Sébastien Lifshitz

2020 Berlin International Film Festival: programming lineup announced

February 11, 2020

Sigourney Weaver in “My Salinger Year” (Photo courtesy of Memento Films International)

These films have been announced for the largest programs at the 70th Annual Berlin International Film Festival,  which takes place in Germany from February 20 to March 1, 2020.  Updates will be added when announced.

The following descriptions are from Berlin International Film Festival press releases:

With the kind support of ZDF/3sat and CinemaxX, on February 20 at 7.20 pm, the Opening Gala of the 70th Berlinale and the premiere of the opening film will be broadcast in cinemas in four German cities for the first time. In the CinemaxX cinemas in Hamburg-Dammtor, Munich, Essen and Halle (Saale), viewers can follow the Berlinale Opening, presented by Samuel Finzi, live on the big screen. This will be followed by the world premiere of My Salinger Year by screenwriter and director Philippe Falardeau. In addition to Sigourney Weaver, who has been nominated for several Oscars, the top-class cast includes Margaret Qualley and Douglas Booth. The Canadian-Irish production is based on the novel of the same name by US writer Joanna Rakoff. Tickets and further information are now available at https://www.cinemaxx.de/film/my-salinger-year.

The Opening of the Berlinale will also be broadcast live on February 20 at 7.20 pm on 3sat.

Competition

“The Competition films tell intimate and earth-shattering, individual and collective stories that have an enduring effect and gain their impact from their interplay with the audience. If there is a predominance of dark tones, this may be because the films we have selected tend to look at the present without illusion – not to cause fear, but because they want to open our eyes. The trust cinema places in humankind, these suffering, ill-treated, manipulative beings, is unbroken – so unbroken that it consistently views them as its protagonists,” comments Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian.

The Competition programme includes 18 films from 18 countries with 16 world premieres as well as one documentary form.

Welket Bungué in “Berlin Alexanderplatz”

Competition

Berlin Alexanderplatz
Germany / Netherlands
by Burhan Qurbani
with Welket Bungué, Jella Haase, Albrecht Schuch, Joachim Król, Annabelle Mandeng, Nils Verkooijen, Richard Fouofié Djimeli
World premiere

DAU. Natasha
Germany / Ukraine / United Kingdom / Russian Federation
by Ilya Khrzhanovskiy, Jekaterina Oertel
with Natalia Berezhnaya, Olga Shkabarnya, Vladimir Azhippo, Alexei Blinov, Luc Bigé
World premiere

Domangchin yeoja (The Woman Who Ran)
Republic of Korea
by Hong Sangsoo
with Kim Minhee, Seo Younghwa, Song Seonmi, Kim Saebyuk, Lee Eunmi, Kwon Haehyo, Shin Seokho, Ha Seongguk
World premiere

Effacer l’historique (Delete History)
France / Belgium
by Benoît Delépine, Gustave Kervern
with Blanche Gardin, Denis Podalydès, Corinne Masiero
World premiere

El prófugo (The Intruder)
Argentina / Mexico
by Natalia Meta
with Érica Rivas, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Daniel Hendler, Cecilia Roth, Guillermo Arengo, Agustín Rittano, Mirta Busnelli
World premiere

Favolacce (Bad Tales)
Italy / Switzerland
by Damiano & Fabio D’Innocenzo
with Elio Germano, Barbara Chichiarelli, Lino Musella, Gabriel Montesi, Max Malatesta
World premiere

First Cow
USA
by Kelly Reichardt
with John Magaro, Orion Lee, Toby Jones, Scott Shepherd, Gary Farmer, Lily Gladstone
International premiere

Irradiés (Irradiated)
France / Cambodia
by Rithy Panh
World premiere / Documentary form

Le sel des larmes (The Salt of Tears)
France / Switzerland
by Philippe Garrel
with Logann Antuofermo, Oulaya Amamra, André Wilms, Louise Chevillotte, Souheila Yacoub
World premiere

Never Rarely Sometimes Always
USA
by Eliza Hittman
with Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Etten
International premiere

Rizi (Days)
Taiwan
by Tsai Ming-Liang
with Lee Kang-Sheng, Anong Houngheuangsy
World premiere

The Roads Not Taken
United Kingdom
by Sally Potter
with Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning, Salma Hayek, Laura Linney
World premiere

Schwesterlein (My Little Sister)
Switzerland
by Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond
with Nina Hoss, Lars Eidinger, Marthe Keller, Jens Albinus, Thomas Ostermeier, Linne-Lu Lungershausen, Noah Tscharland, Isabelle Caillat, Moritz Gottwald, Urs Jucker
World premiere

Sheytan vojud nadarad (There Is No Evil)
Germany / Czech Republic / Iran
by Mohammad Rasoulof
World premiere

Siberia
Italy / Germany / Mexico
by Abel Ferrara
with Willem Dafoe, Dounia Sichov, Simon McBurney, Cristina Chiriac
World premiere

Todos os mortos (All the Dead Ones)
Brazil / France
by Caetano Gotardo, Marco Dutra
with Mawusi Tulani, Clarissa Kiste, Carolina Bianchi, Thaia Perez, Alaíde Costa, Leonor Silveira, Agyei Augusto, Rogério Brito, Thomás Aquino, Andrea Marquee
World premiere

Undine
Germany / France
by Christian Petzold
with Paula Beer, Franz Rogowski, Maryam Zaree, Jacob Matschenz
World premiere

Volevo nascondermi (Hidden Away)
Italy
by Giorgio Diritti
with Elio Germano
World premiere

Berlinale Special

“This section provides a platform for films that captivate a wide audience. We call them ‘moving images’ because they move audiences with their expressiveness and their brilliant and courageous performers. The gala premieres fulfil the desire for the stars, glitz and glamour that is part of every big festival. Berlinale Series offers an insight into new forms of storytelling while Berlinale Special presents itself as a forum for debate and discussion and builds bridges between the audience and cinema,” comments Carlo Chatrian, Artistic Director of the Berlinale.

In total, 20 films from 19 countries, among them 15 world premieres, will be shown in the section.

Omar Sy and Virginie Efira in “Police”

Berlinale Special Gala at Friedrichstadt-Palast

High Ground
Australia
by Stephen Maxwell Johnson
with Simon Baker, Jacob Junior Nayinggul, Jack Thompson, Callan Mulvey, Witiyana Marika, Esmerelda Marimowa, Aaron Pedersen
World premiere

Minamata
United Kingdom
by Andrew Levitas
with Johnny Depp, Hiroyuki Sanada, Minami, Bill Nighy
World premiere

Sa-nyang-eui-si-gan (Time to Hunt)
Republic of Korea
by Yoon Sung-hyun
with Lee Je-hoon, Ahn Jae-hong, Choi Woo-shik, Park Jeong-min, Park Hae-soo
World premiere

Berlinale Special at Haus der Berliner Festspiele

The American Sector
USA
by Courtney Stephens, Pacho Velez
World premiere / Documentary form

Golda Maria
France
by Patrick Sobelman, Hugo Sobelman
World premiere / Documentary form

Hillary
USA
by Nanette Burstein
International premiere / Documentary series

Last and First Men
Iceland
by Jóhann Jóhannsson
Narrated by Tilda Swinton
World premiere / Documentary form

Nomera (Numbers)
Ukraine / Poland / Czech Republic / France
by Oleg Sentsov in collaboration with Akhtem Seitablaiev
with Evhen Chernykov, Agatha Larionova, Oleksandr Begma, Maksym Devizorov, Iryna Mak

The Nutty Professor
USA 1963
by Jerry Lewis
with Jerry Lewis, Stella Stevens, Del Moore, Kathleen Freeman, Med Flory, Norman Alden
Screening on the occasion of the Deutsche Kinemathek receiving exclusive documents from the estate of Jerry Lewis, with behind-the-scenes footage being shown prior to the film. The film will be presented by Jerry Lewis’ son Chris Lewis.

Yi Zhi You Dao Hai Shui Bian Lan (Swimming Out Till The Sea Turns Blue)
People’s Republic of China
by Jia Zhang-ke
World premiere / Documentary form

Berlinale Special Gala at Berlinale Palast

Charlatan
Czech Republic / Ireland / Poland / Slovakia
by Agnieszka Holland
with Ivan Trojan, Josef Trojan, Juraj Loj, Jaroslava Pokorná
World Premiere

Persian Lessons
Russian Federation / Germany / Belarus
by Vadim Perelman
with Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Lars Eidinger, Jonas Nay, Leonie Benesch, Alexander Beyer, David Schütter, Luisa-Celine Gaffron
World premiere

Police (Night Shift)
France
by Anne Fontaine
with Omar Sy, Virginie Efira, Grégory Gadebois, Payman Maadi
World premiere

 

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